What I've Learned about Sociopaths after Living with One
I have discussed the topic of President Trump being triggering for survivors of abuse before, but now I need to dig a bit deeper into this man as we face a global pandemic that he seemingly gives zero f*s about. We are not just dealing with a narcissist--we are dealing with a sociopath (or psychopath as these terms are interchangeable) and science has even tried to back this claim up. Scientific American evaluated famous leaders in history as well as 2016 presidential candidates based on psychopathy’s top eight component traits. It is no surprise that Trump, with a score of 171, has almost the same score as Hitler (Trump's is 2 points higher!). King Henry VIII, who loved chopping off his wives' heads, scored 178 points.
The real reason why I am sharing the parallels between world leaders and mental health is to discuss the warped reality we live in that enables people like President Trump to get away with actions (or inactions) that would normally cause a person to be harshly ridiculed and punished if not in power. How do you navigate someone who has no emotions, is not empathetic, does not take responsibility for his/herself, is never wrong and will never show any signs of altruism because they feel nothing and don't care about anything but themselves? Being a sociopath means you know the human psyche, so innately that you can manipulate anyone into doing whatever you want them to do--even when it is against their morals or lacks reasoning. It takes a lot of will power to say, "No" to this type of person because they inflict fear and use manipulation to continue to get what they want. It is a power play.
I was living in a home with someone like this until I was nine years old and have continued to interact with this person in adulthood. It shaped me into the resilient person I am today, but not without challenges that I manage daily. For all those who have a Trumpian (yes I just made that up!) in their personal lives, here are my tips for functioning and thriving when dealing with a sociopath:
1. Focus on what you can control, not what you can't: find ways to take action in your personal, social and professional life. Once you take stock in what you can control, your anxiety will be reduced and you will feel safer.
2. Don't expect anything this person does to be comforting: actions will feel calculated, words will sound sincere-yet-insincere, but the one thing you can count on is that if the person is being accommodating it is because he sees there is something in it for himself--it isn't because he cares about you. Narcissism is his Achilles heel. He will also NEVER apologize for anything (and if he does, it will sound like, "I am sorry BUT I didn't...". It is never his fault and he is almost always the victim, black sheep, scape goat, and so on.
3. Create a safe space for yourself and others: sometimes you have to detach, either mentally or physically, in order to allow yourself relief from the overwhelming feeling of not having any control over things. Meditate, write, sing, play music, travel, craft, do something that allows you to re-connect with yourself and feel safe despite the chaos that may be surrounding you in the outside world. Find strength in realizing that these are important coping mechanisms that will support you as you deal with complicated situations of all kinds in life.
4. Stand your ground: there comes a time when you'll realize in order to stop being mistreated by this person, you will have to stand up for yourself, not back down, put up a brick wall, and give him the same cold hearted treatment he has doled out in order to stop the vicious cycle. Sometimes silence is the best response and revenge. It enables you to regain the power because you are no longer showing that you are being provoked, which means the person cannot continue to manipulate the situation without your "input."